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Following a bump in the road, the Lockport Township boys soccer team is back on track.
The Porters had their first outright loss of the season in the final week of September. From there, they won three straight, including a pair of SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue Division games last week.
Those were 1-0 at Sandburg on Oct. 1 and 3-1 against Lincoln-Way East on Oct. 3 at home. Those victories guaranteed Lockport (13-2, 3-0) at least a share of the SWSC Blue for the fourth time in six seasons and for the fifth time since 2008. The Porters hosted defending conference champion Bolingbrook on Tuesday, Oct. 9, and if they won that game they would win the outright league title.
Bolingbrook (12-7, 2-1 through Oct. 6) handed the Porters one of their two losses this season. That was in penalty kicks (4-3) after the teams tied 1-1 in regulation on Aug. 25 in a quarterfinal of the windy City Ram Classic Tournament. Lockport captured eight in a row after that before a 7-3 loss on Sept. 27 to visiting Metea Valley.
“That was not indicative of us as a team,” Lockport coach Chris Beal said of the loss to Metea Valley. “So after that, we challenged the seniors to step up. It would be the last time they could play for a conference title. We really want to win conference, especially with this senior group. They really stepped up and I was proud of the way they played.”
In the Sandburg match, it was senior forward Jayson Iniguez scoring a second half goal off an assist by Jose Mendoza. The Porter defense and freshman keeper Jacques Roche did the rest in registering their fifth shutout of the season.
“Jacques Roche has been phenomenal in goal,” Beal said. “The whole team defense was high intensity with a lot of pressure, starting at the top. We played well defensively in the second half against, East too. The guys did what they needed to do.”
Especially two days later against East. The Griffins (12-5-1, 3-1) had defeated Bolingbrook 3-2 in overtime on Oct. 2, so a win over Lockport would have given them the SWSC Blue title outright. But the Porters had other plans.
There were a trio of goals scored in the first 12 minutes of the game. Senior midfielder Nick Kowalczyk tallied early for the Porters. Junior defender Jackson Seida tied it for East, but Iniguez continued his hot scoring with a goal and Lockport led the rest of the way.
“After the initial goals, it slowed down,” Kowalczyk said of the game. “We knew that East won in overtime the day before and would be tired. So we put the game in our hands and played really good defense.”
Kowalczyk assisted on another Iniguez goal in the second half to provide some cushion.
“It’s just really exciting and awesome,” said Kowalczyk of clinching at least a share of the league title. “Of course we want to win it outright. But from the second half of the Sandburg game on, the coaches told us seniors that this was the last time we would play teams like Sandburg and Lincoln-Way East. It hit home and we had to come through.
“I feel everyone is on the same page and knows each other so well. We play high press up top and that really works for us. In this stage of the season and heading into the playoffs, it’s about who is most prepared. We will see what happens [in the postseason].”
Lockport caps off the regular season by hosting Stagg at 4:45 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 11. The postseason starts next week and the Porters are the No. 5 seed in the Class 3A Geneva Sectional, which includes two-time defending state champion Naperville North. They open the playoffs against No. 12 seeded Romeoville at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 16, at the Batavia Regional. If they win that, they would likely face No. 4 seeded Oswego East for the regional championship.